Long before he got the idea for a John Hughes–themed art show he’s dubbing We’re All Pretty Bizarre, Chris Bentzen was a fan of the man who defined ’80s teen cinema.
Considering his fandom goes right back to his high-school years, let’s cut the Hot Art Wet City art gallery owner some slack for not naming The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, or Pretty in Pink as his all-time favourite Hughes film. Instead, Bentzen goes with Weird Science, a 1985 outing that once led famed critic Janet Maslin to observe “Even 14-year-old boys may find it heavy sledding.”
“I love it because of the nostalgia of it,” he says with a laugh, interviewed at his proudly lowbrow gallery on Main. “But it’s not a good movie. It’s so sexist and just really so bad—there’s really no reason for why I love it. My sister and I would watch it—I guess it went on TV some point around 1985 and we recorded it. Then we’d watch it once a week.”
Once you know of that obsession, the timing of We’re All Pretty Bizarre makes sense.
“This idea for this show was that it’s been 30 years since Weird Science,” he says. “Because the film has always been such a touchstone for me, I’ve always wanted to do a Weird Science show, but doing a John Hughes theme seemed to be a better idea.”
Noting that Hughes’s pretty much flawless The Breakfast Club also came out 30 years ago, Bentzen adds: “John Hughes only directed eight movies, but he had two of them in that same year. He also wrote one of the Vacation movies that year. So ’85 was a really big year for him.”
We’re All Pretty Bizarre is, fittingly then, a pretty big show, at least for the compact Hot Art Wet City space. Bentzen tapped Vancouver’s MW Bowen and Sherri Rogers to produce pieces that will anchor the exhibition, and then issued an open call. Works that Bentzen pulls out during the Straight’s visit range from a multimedia 3-D rendition of a cigar-chomping Uncle Buck to a graphic-novel-like ink-and-paper tribute to the cast of The Breakfast Club. Brat Pack megastar Molly Ringwald shows up repeatedly, including in an oil-based portrait capturing her in all of her flame-haired ’80s glory.
“There are 35 or 40 artists,” Bentzen notes. “It’s like, as long as you fit the theme, it doesn’t matter your level of experience—you get to be in the show.”
That kind of everyone-is-welcome spirit in some ways reflects the genius of what Hughes—a writer and director—was after in many of his works, which include much-loved classics such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Home Alone. Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club endure today because they drove home a similar point: everyone’s fucked-up and confused during their teen years, whether they happen to be unrepentant nerds, artsy outsiders, confident jocks, or flashy rich kids.
“It’s that universal idea of identity,” Bentzen offers. “Everyone struggles with that, especially while growing up. John Hughes’s big movies, the ones that he’s recognized for, were about identity and fitting in. They’re about growing up, feeling alone, trying to make friends. And then everybody realizing, ‘Hey, we’re all doing the same thing here, so let’s hang out together.’ ”
We’re All Pretty Bizarre runs at Hot Art Wet City from Friday (June 5) to June 27.